OLEAN – There are 347 teams playing Division I basketball and the Ratings Percentage Index lists The Citadel at the bottom of the bunch. The Bulldogs raised no argument Wednesday night at the Reilly Center.
St. Bonaventure built a 15-point halftime lead and steadily pulled away thereafter with the final result, a 97-57 thrashing, good for its fourth victory in the last five games. The competition will grow a tad stiffer when the Bonnies play No. 25 North Carolina State on Saturday afternoon in Raleigh.
One of the “buy” games on the Bona schedule became a name-your-score affair from the outset. The Citadel, 3-6 with two non-Division I victories, missed nine of its first 11 shots, trailed by 13 in a flash and melted in the second half. The lopsided outcome, coming on the heels of Saturday’s 87-53 rout of Cleveland State, makes for Bona’s first consecutive 30-plus point victories since the 1970 Final Four team.
Bona (7-3) placed five players in double figures, led by Chris Johnson and Demitrius Conger with 16 apiece. Marquise Simmons and Eric Mosley each added 15 and backup center Youssou Ndoye reached doubles for the second straight game, scoring 10.
With the students on break, The Citadel an easy mark and North Carolina State next on the schedule, this had the makings of what coaches call a “trap” game.
The intensity level can wane given the circumstances and coach Mark Schmidt took steps at the outset to ensure his players focused on the task at hand.
The Bonnies pressed following their early baskets and the pressure fed their offensive appetite. Chris Johnson and Simmons scored six points apiece and the lead was 13, 15-2, a little less than five minutes in.
“I thought the first five minutes of the game was going to be really critical,” Schmidt said. “We wanted to get out there and make sure Citadel knew there wasn’t going to be a game, not give them any confidence. They’d lost four straight. They’ve had four straight road games, this was their fifth. We knew that we needed to get on them quickly and that was what we tried to do.”
Sustaining that kind of effort was more of a challenge. The Bulldogs made just 2 of their first 11 shots but went 7 of 12 the remainder of the half. Schmidt gave Jordan Gathers the hook in the final minutes when his man, Ashton Moore, drilled a three from the corner to pull The Citadel within 11. There are standards to maintain.
Bona bounced right back. Simmons struck for a conventional three-point play at the end of a lengthy volley under the basket and Conger drained a three at the buzzer for the 15-point halftime margin.
“Our coaching staff, they prepare us for every game like we’re playing the No. 1 team in the country,” Simmons said. “We don’t take anybody lightly. We don’t go there because it’s not acceptable. We prepared for this game just like we prepared for Cleveland State and how we’ll prepared for N.C. State.”
Bona’s backcourt run into foul trouble when point guard Charlon Kloof and shooting guard Matthew Wright each picked up No. 3 early in the second half. But the lead continued to grow in their absence with Kloof’s replacement, Mosley, inflicting the brunt of the damage.
The senior from Louisville made two free throws, a three and a layup off a steal in a personal 7-0 streak that opened Bona’s first 20-point advantage at 50-30.
He then found Conger for an inside basket, Johnson made two free throws and the Bulldogs were growing distant in the rearview mirror.
“It was a zone so there’s gaps to find my teammates in and make all the shots,” said Mosley, who had a career-high seven assists. “I think we shot the ball a lot better than we have been. We’re a pretty good shooting team.”